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Book- Finding Beauty in Ashes

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Author: Mary Hilger

When John and Mary Hilger set off for their boat cruise on the Rhine River, they thought they knew the destination—Germany, how they’d get there, and what they’d see and do. 

But God had another idea. God did not say “yes” or “not now.” God said, I have something better in mind for you.

Their plans were diverted in a single solitary moment. Their lives changed abruptly from what was expected or planned. This life-changing event occurred when John collapsed on the boat their first day in Amsterdam.

Mary’s struggles always seem to be worse when she was alone, but then God said people onto the scene. “Taking on our humanity,” God embraced her.

Mary and her six daughters met people whose “habits of the heart” wrapped them in compassion when they needed it most. These people carried Mary and her family through days and weeks of emotional woundedness.

Outwardly, the Hilger family expressed their interior sorrow. God traded out mourning and ashes, and left in their stead a glorious mantle, the oil of gladness, a crown of beauty.



Wife, mother, restaurant owner, art teacher--Mary (Evans) Hilger did it all. Now retired, she's beginning a new venture as author of her late husband John’s story.

As they began their 2017 vacation in Amsterdam, Mary experienced a life-altering event. Their much-anticipated trip to Germany took an unexpected turn. Amid the ashes of tragedy, Mary experienced the love of family, of God, and of God's people in new and beautiful ways.

Mary grew up in rural Indiana, met John in a tomato patch and married him. Over 40 years, they raised six daughters to adulthood. With their families, they form the framework of Mary's life. When their father collapsed in Amsterdam, they flew from all over the country to join Mary.

For over 30 years, Mary traveled extensively, spreading her art ministry throughout the world. Her chalk drawings on religious themes and her spiritual testimony have inspired groups and individuals to a deeper connection with God.

She has a Master’s in K-12 Art Education from University of St. Francis and spent 34 years as an art educator. In that role, Mary nurtured and challenged students to express their budding personalities in various media.  

Her book, Finding Beauty in Ashes, weaves diverse elements into a compelling story of unanticipated loss, surprising comfort and even joy. Through its pages, Mary believes readers—regardless of their background—will discover their own resilience and hope.